Convinced that the gasoline tanks of its Ford Crown Victoria police cars are prone to explode, the city of Phoenix is evaluating the Dodge Intrepid and Chevrolet Impala as alternatives.
The city's decision is more bad news for Ford Motor Co., which is trying to shore up the reputation of the Crown Victoria and maintain its 85 percent share of the national police-car market.
Three Arizona police officers have died and one was burned in fuel tank-related Crown Victoria accidents since 1998, Phoenix officials say.
On June 18, Mayor Skip Rimsza sent a letter to Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford, putting a 200-car, $4.4 million Crown Victoria purchase order on hold.
He requested that the company help pay for replacing standard gasoline tanks with protective bladder fuel tanks on the city's 735 Crown Victoria police cars.
Ford said the Crown Victoria is safe but has agreed to create a task force called for by the Arizona attorney general to investigate the vehicle.
The task force plans to test protective fuel tank bladders in high-speed collisions. Ford hasn't used bladders in the past, except in race cars, because they may lose durability after one year, said spokeswoman Sara Tatchio.
The company is working with Arizona, Tatchio said, but she stood by the car's safety record.
"The fact is that statistically the Crown Victoria and other vehicles have the same occurrence of fires," she said. She added that in Columbus, Ohio, the police department has had 20 rear-end crashes in Crown Victorias without any fires.